Marijuana companies suing US attorney general in federal prohibition challenge

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(This story has been corrected to reflect that Gyasi Sellers is the CEO of the Treevit delivery service.)

Four marijuana companies, including a multistate operator, have filed a lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in which they allege the federal MJ prohibition under the Controlled Substances Act is no longer constitutional.

According to the complaint, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, retailer Canna Provisions, Treevit delivery service CEO Gyasi Sellers, cultivator Wiseacre Farm and MSO Verano Holdings Corp. are all harmed by “the federal government’s unconstitutional ban on cultivating, manufacturing, distributing, or possessing intrastate marijuana.”

Verano is headquartered in Chicago but has operations in Massachusetts; the other three operators are based in Massachusetts.

The lawsuit seeks a ruling that the “Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional as applied to the intrastate cultivation, manufacture, possession, and distribution of marijuana pursuant to state law.”

The companies want the case to go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

They hired prominent law firm Boies Schiller Flexner to represent them.

The New York-based firm’s principal is David Boies, whose former clients include Microsoft, former presidential candidate Al Gore and Elizabeth Holmes’ disgraced startup Theranos.

Similar challenges to the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) have failed.

One such challenge led to a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2005.

In Gonzalez vs. Raich, the highest court in the United States ruled in a 6-3 decision that the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution gave Congress the power to outlaw marijuana federally, even though state laws allow the cultivation and sale of cannabis.

In the 18 years since that ruling, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use marijuana and the federal government has allowed a multibillion-dollar cannabis industry to thrive.

Since both Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice, currently headed by Garland, have declined to intervene in state-licensed marijuana markets, the key facts that led to the Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling “no longer apply,” Boies said in a statement Thursday.

“The Supreme Court has since made clear that the federal government lacks the authority to regulate purely intrastate commerce,” Boies said.

“Moreover, the facts on which those precedents are based are no longer true.”

Verano President Darren Weiss said in a statement the company is “prepared to bring this case all the way to the Supreme Court in order to align federal law with how Congress has acted for years.”

While the Biden administration’s push to reschedule marijuana would help solve marijuana operators’ federal tax woes, neither rescheduling nor modest Congressional reforms such as the SAFER Banking Act “solve the fundamental issue,” Weiss added.

“The application of the CSA to lawful state-run cannabis business is an unconstitutional overreach on state sovereignty that has led to decades of harm, failed businesses, lost jobs, and unsafe working conditions.”